Sunday, July 6, 2003

My Second 5K Race

Springbank Road Races - 5K
September 7, 2003

To date, this is my fastest 5K race. All the 5K races I have run in 2009 and 2010 have yet to crack this time! I was much lighter and more fit when I ran this particular race ...

I ran this one alone. I signed up for it on my own, and I do not necessarily recall following a running program to get to this point! My one significant memory about this race is Janice. Janice is my cousin's wife, and for some reason that I can't remember, she drove me to the race. I think I either met her for coffee that morning, or I had asked her to drive me to the event. Janice is significant because she dropped me off, and this is all I expected from her. However, when I was at the 1 1/2K point of the race, there she was, cheering me on! On her own initiative, she had decided to park and cheer me on before taking off. It was so unexpected and so lovely of her - I have never forgotten the wonderful feeling it gave me! To this day, I still think highly of her for this act of kindness.

It truly is a great feeling to have someone along the route cheering you specifically on!

Friday, July 4, 2003

Learn to Run Club - Runner's Choice

My decision to run (actually, walk!) a half marathon in Vancouver may have been crazy, but joining a beginner running club wasn't. I like to think that my crazy half marathon race participation made me realize that I had a lot to learn! I give credit to this running group for my initial running success in 2003. I cannot remember anybody's name, but I liked the leaders and liked the people in my group. I learned a lot from the half hour mini-lessons before the group runs on proper shoes, injury prevention, etc. At the time, this was my only source of information. I recall how I kept quiet about my half marathon, not sharing with anyone that I had done one, because I was realizing by then how completely unprepared for it I had been! At the time, I was feeling even a little embarrassed about it. :(

This club was divided into three sections, based on speed/pace, and I ended up in the middle group, not quite beginner because of my treadmill running, but not quite as fast as the other group. I was surprised to see how "slow" our running pace was inbetween walking. This is when I realized that "sprinting" for a minute before walking was not the way to improve my running. Learning this helped me significantly when I was on my own during the week on my scheduled runs. I think about this sometimes when I am running and checking my pace to see if I am on track, or need to pick up the pace (and in rare cases, need to slow it down a bit!).

I appreciated my leader a lot. She was not what I was expecting, and this is a good thing. When I joined the club, I had assumed that it was going to be some super fit athlete with very little body fat who had been running all of his or her life who would be leading us beginners. Instead, my group leader was not some who had been running for a long time, but had actually been "one of us." She clearly loved running, and it was this enthusiasm, as well as her encouragement to start slowly, that made her ideal. We could identify with her, and she made us feel less self-conscious.

I also appreciated the 10-week running program provided for us. Once again, it was sobering reminder for me as to how much work it takes to get to a 5K running level, let along a half marathon!

My First 5K - Summer Night 5K
July 25, 2003
Summer Night 5K

Thursday, July 3, 2003

My First Race - the Adidas Vancouver International Marathon 2003

How crazy is it to choose a half marathon as your very first race without any training?!?!

This is what I remember:

1. Getting extremely drunk with the friends I stayed with on the Friday night before the race. I needed all of Saturday to recuperate from the wild night of drinking together, and I was still feeling ill on the Sunday morning of the race! Can you tell that there was absolutely no concept of run preparation?!?!

2. Buying a water belt from the Running Room the day before with two large plastic water bottles on it because I had no idea there would be water stations along the way, and thought I should bring some with me, just in case I got thirsty!

3. Feeling alone and lost in the sea of people at the starting line, most of whom seemed to know someone else they could talk with and appeared to know more about what they were about to do than me!

4. The huge swooooosh of hundreds of people moving together forward after the race started. I watched as people took off at full speed and at the hundreds of people who swept by me. Oddly enough, without any prior knowledge, I told myself to keep at my pace and not to get caught up in the people dashing forward. To this day, it is still a significant memory of the number of people whom I passed within the first 2K, people who were clearly exhausted from sprinting and would now walk the rest of the way.

5. The huge piles of clothes along the first 5K of the race that were left by runners. The day started as a typical Vancouver day - rainy and cloudy, but the race day itself eventually turned into a beautiful sunny day. I recall thinking how I would like to come back to this spot, just to get a few nice shirts and jackets that I saw tossed along the way! I was wearing my heavier ROWING jacket (not a RUNNING jacket, but a rowing jacket!), and I refused to toss it when it got too warm so I tied it around my waist!

6. I listed to one bloody CD the entire time - ONE! I did not carry any additional music with me and there was no MP3 players at the time so it was my trusty Sony CD player and one Pet Shop Boys CD, ad nauseum, for the entire race!

7. How incredibly gorgeous the city of Vancouver truly is. I lived in the city for seven of my years in B.C., and I saw areas of the city I had never been in before as a result of the marathon. I "get it" now when I read how a marathon is a great way of seeing a city because "seeing" Vancouver from a race perspective that day was spectacular.

8. How caught off guard I was by the loneliness that hit me while I was out there. I had several friends reprimand me for not telling them I was going to be in the half marathon because they would have come out to cheer for me if they had known. However, prior to the race, I honestly did not want many people to know about it. It was something I wanted to do and I felt very private about it. I did not think it would be a big deal with the thousands of people around me. But you know what? It was! To this day, I am very grateful to the kind spectators who cheered me personally along the way. It did not realize how much it meant to have your own supporters along the route until I saw it for myself in action. Wow!

9. Watching the elite marathoners run by me. Another Wow! What a phenomenal experience to see these not-an-ounce-of-body-fat-on-them men and women SPRINT at full speed past me at one point. I am thankful for the organizers who designed the course as such because it was incredibly cool to see them! A huge highlight of the race.

10. Sprinting to the finish line and hearing the cheers for me (and the others!) at the end. I may have walked most of the middle part of the half marathon, but I ran consistently for the first few K, and darn it, I was going to finish my first race by running, too!

11. The wonderful spread of food at the end! It was food buffet heaven at the end of the race. My sister ran her first half marathon last summer in Toronto, and I told her at the time how great the buffet would be at the end! However, she told me afterward that it had "sucked," and it was not at all like what I had described to her. She said the same thing about the food at the end of her second half marathon this spring in Ottawa. I have no idea if this is a change at all marathons in the last seven years, but in 2003, in Vancouver, I enjoyed the most amazing spread of food in the fenced-in area for post-marathoners, which made the previous 3+ hours well worth it !! :)

Wednesday, July 2, 2003

What Led Me to My First Race ...

2002 - 2003

I returned to Ontario "for a year or two at the most" after living for ten years in British Columbia. I felt very lost, very lonely, and spent a whole lot of time wondering why the hell did I just do this !?!?!? One of the few positive things going for me at the time was that I now lived within walking distance of a great fitness club. Since I was lacking both a job and a social circle, it was perfect timing for me to become a fitness club member - I had nothing else! Slowly, through aquacize, using a treadmill, and lifting weights on a regular basis (and thanks to Covert Bailey's "Ultimate Fit or Fat" book), I shed a lot of weight. This helped me to start feeling much better about my "temporary" move and myself. I also noticed that I was no longer spending time in the pool, unless it was to swim a few laps, because my new focus was on what was happening on the treadmill - both my speed and my duration were increasing, and I was "running!"

This is when I would make one of my craziest decisions in life (as if moving away from B.C. to Ontario wasn't crazy enough!). I was scheduled to fly back to the west coast to attend a friend's wedding in the spring of 2003, and because I was feeling so good about my improved fitness and lost weight, I decided that I would participate in the Vancouver International Marathon. I would fly in to Vancouver, visit for a few days, participate in the big city event, visit with more friends and family, attend the wedding, and then fly back to Ontario. This is how I ended up participating in a half marathon as my very first race!

Unfortunately, too much time has passed, so I cannot offer definitive answers to the questions I pose to myself today, such as, "what on earth were you thinking?!?!", and "how clueless do you have to be to think you could suddenly run 21K+?!?!" I know that I had no concept of being able to run a 5K or a 10K at that time. I certainly was completely ignorant about training programs and did not possess 10% of the knowledge I have since acquired! It is open to conjecture.

But the fact remains - I did it ...!! I did not quit! I FINISHED that crazy race!

Adidas Vancouver International Marathon 2003
Bib #10969

... and I have never regretted doing it. This story deserves its own post, so I am not going to reflect on all the details here. Suffice it to say, as blissfully ignorant as I was to the training and fitness behind a 5K or a 10K run, let alone a half marathon, this first race still ranks high on my life experiences scale, and probably deserves much of the credit for where I am today with my running than anything else. After finishing my first official race in Vancouver, I once again left my beloved west coast for the reality of my new life, and decided that I should probably join a Learn to Run Club!

Tuesday, July 1, 2003

My Spotty Running Background

This post is my reflection on what has brought me to this point ...

I was very athletic when I was in elementary school. It came naturally to me. I have a school crest and numerous sports badges to prove that I was on most of the athletic teams for several years. I was never the top athlete - my best friend at the time had that honour - but I could hold my own. I was actually on the "new" cross country team for a few years, and I recall how easy it was for me to just run. I was never a top runner, who won medals or the top runner awards. I was a ribbon collector for participating! :) I was the one who could keep going while running in the middle of the pack ...

When I was in high school, I was only on one school team, the badminton team, every year from Grade 9 until graduation. Girls' doubles. I also took gym class throughout high school for four years so there was running on the track periodically in the fall and spring when it was nicer weather outside. There were periods when, on my own initiative, I ran around the neighbourhood in an effort to jump-start a running program. Again, I was fit enough that I could just run with an occasional stop to walk, but none of this was organized or planned as an actual running program. My main source of exercise outside of school in those days was biking everywhere when there was no snow.

Once I went away to university, there were fleeting attempts to start running, always starting for a week or so, and then giving up. Unfortunately, this is when I started gaining significant weight, thus making any running attempts more difficult and discouraging.

A significant experience occurred in 2001 when I cheered on a friend at his first marathon in Vancouver with a time of 4:17:23. It was a memorable experience to watch my friend and his partner do this together!

My last fleeting attempt at running was a year later, in 2002, when I was in the middle of one of the worst years of my life. I have had two of those kind of years, 1992 and 2002, years when everything that could go wrong DID go wrong in a stunning, spectacular way! :( It was just awful awful awful. It also explains why I left B.C. ... I took it as a sign, that with everything that was a positive for me now crumbling apart, that I was meant to leave Vancouver. I left Ontario for B.C. in 1992 when I had my first dreadful year so now I used the same, "get of Dodge" technique, in 2002.

But I am digressing ... some of my excuses before for not running was that I was too busy with my social life and my job to focus on it. I told myself that after losing both these things, these excuses no longer held true so get to it! I started jogging in the Pacific Rim Park near UBC, a gorgeous area for trailing running. Again, there was no program or plan - I was just getting myself out there - but it ended when I badly sprained my ankle of the trail. I painfully limped out of the park to the car to get me home, never to return. :(